I'm an undergraduate at the Open University (OU), which allows me to study part-time and from home (actually even from a different country). Getting my BSc will take me other several years, but I want to start gaining experience with doing research and start publishing papers. Specifically my field would be the Semantic Web and I already have lots of industry experience in this subject, just not much academic experience yet. So I found this institute at the OU called the Knowledge Media Institute (KMi) that actually does quite interesting Semantic Web work. I contacted some professors from various labs in the institute and none seem to offer remote internships.

Now to my question: how do other OU students start publishing given that there isn't really a campus and you're most likely in another country?

PS: I know research is usually accomplished face-to-face, but this relates specifically to OU which is a highly-accredited online university. There must still be a way to do research for an undegrad at OU.

4 Answers 4


At the risk of sounding obvious let me share some advice that will not be specific to OU.

First, wherever you are, you can do research on your own, although it's usually a tough call while being at the undergraduate level.

A somewhat more realistic option could be locating and contacting the academics in your field at a university reasonably close to your location (so that you can at some point contact them in person) and get them interested in supervising your research jointly with the OU people or on their own.

The problem with the second option is how to get the people at your local university interested in working with you but perhaps you could get some letters of recommendation from your teachers at OU to help your cause.

  • 1
    @Luca: Actually, given your location and the fact that you already have publications, in your case BOTH options are (IMHO) fairly realistic. Jul 20, 2014 at 10:12

There is usually no absolute requirement to be associated with an academic institution in order to submit a paper to a journal.

However, you have a serious credibility barrier to overcome if you choose that route, depending on how common independent research is in your field. My impression is that in some fields (network security, for example), publication by independent researchers is relatively common. In contrast, it would be much less common to publish an experimental neuroscience paper without an academic affiliation (I've never seen one).

You may also have an issue regarding access to the literature without an affiliation.

Maybe you should try writing a short project proposal, with some preliminary results or analysis (whatever's appropriate), and sending it to the researchers to ask if they would like to collaborate.

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    The bottleneck is not affiliation, but actual content.
    – JeffE
    Jul 25, 2014 at 12:52
  • Maybe, but publication is a long and arduous process by itself. Longer and more arduous without affiliation. Also see my comment regarding access to the literature. Jul 25, 2014 at 12:54

You may look into getting started with open-access journals. These are probably more likely to be amenable to independent research. Some examples are PloS, and The Winnower. Good luck!


You make it sound as though doing research requires publication in a journal. I will answer just regarding publication. If you have found some journals that you might wish to publish a paper in, consider contacting the OU professors you wrote to and asking them for specific advice not abot internships but about getting your paper published. They are at the same university as you, so you are writing to them as a colleague.

Have you asked the question on one of the OU's internal online forums? I'm not a member of the OU so I don't have access, but I know that the university runs several much-used forums online.

And have you asked your module tutors or whoever else has an official academic responsibility towards you at the OU?

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